Cricket: England face gruelling eight weeks

By David Leggat

Stuart Broad takes part in a fielding drill during a nets session at Cobham Oval. Photo / Getty Images
Stuart Broad takes part in a fielding drill during a nets session at Cobham Oval. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand XI captain Andrew Ellis fancies the idea of being spoilers when England's eight-week tour starts in Whangarei today.

The opening T20 is at Eden Park this weekend. But for the home squad chosen for the two warmup games at Cobham Oval - the second on Wednesday - there is nothing particularly frivolous about this week.

Nine of the 14 are current or former internationals while opener Hamish Rutherford will get his chance in the T20 rubber which kicks off the ANZ international series. All have points to prove.

Their selection is partly with an eye on both the Champions Trophy in June and, further afield, theWorld Cup early in 2015.

Former captain Ross Taylor is the highest-profile member, but incentives abound throughout the group.

"They're world leaders in most forms of the game so it's fantastic to take them on," Canterbury allrounder Ellis said yesterday.

"Every game you play domestically, or for a New Zealand XI, is an opportunity to push your claims and most people should have enough professional pride that they're putting their best foot forward."

Taylor's importance to the New Zealand batting operation means most scrutiny will be on him today.

"It's always a bonus to have Roscoe around," Ellis said. "He's world class, he's got a smile on his face and hopefully we see a few trademark slog sweeps over the ropes."

England's tourists are keen to get into action, appreciating the worth of the next two games.

"They're very important to get our basics going, get the team nice and gelled together," opener Alex Hales said.

Hales made a significant statement when he arrived to join the Melbourne Renegades in Australia's Big Bash last month. The tall, free-hitting opener clobbered 89 off 52 balls against the hapless Sydney Sixers.

Ellis hadn't seen the innings but quipped, "I've heard he goes all right," adding, "but he's just one of many we'll be looking to target."

England's T20 captain Stuart Broad, who has battled a heel problem, is keen to stretch out. His buildup was compounded by England's dreadful weather limiting training opportunities before coming to New Zealand. He had not bowled outdoors since leaving the tour of India six weeks ago until getting to Auckland.

"We have two weeks solid of T20 cricket and it's going to be a battle," he said.

"It's a long tour for us but we have to break it down into small parts to be successful."

Just as Ellis and co have a team focus as well.

"We have to see ourselves as possibly spoilers for the start of the tour," Ellis said. "It would be fantastic to put them on the back foot and for the Black Caps to take some momentum from that."

NZ XI v England

Cobham Oval, Whangarei, 5pm today, live on SS1
New Zealand XI: Andrew Ellis (c), Hamish Rutherford, Anton Devcich, Neil Broom, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Jimmy Neesham, Luke Ronchi, Colin Munro, Ian Butler, Neil Wagner, Nick Beard, Michael Bates, Matt Henry.
England: (from) Stuart Broad (c), Alex Hales, Michael Lumb, Luke Wright, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Eion Morgan, Samit Patel, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, James Treadwell, Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker, Steven Finn.

- NZ Herald

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